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NFL Week 17 Blog picks
Well, here we are at the end of the regular season staring at a .500 record. Let’s go out with a bang.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Chicago Bears (6-9) at Detroit Lions (2-13) (Line Bears minus 2 1/2)
End of season games between two teams with nothing to play for are always tricky but I can’t imagine the Bears losing this one to their NFC North rivals.
Jay Cutler has had a ghastly first season with Da Bears, tossing an NFL high 26 interceptions but gets to end the campaign against the league’s worst defence. Running back Matt Forte can expect a big day lugging the ball.
If you are a Lions fan this year has already been wildly successful compared to last year’s winless season, picking up two wins. But the Lions still have more troubles than the auto industry on both sides of the ball.
The Bears wheel into the Motor City riding the momentum of a big win last week over the Vikings and I don’t expect to see them go into hibernation with a loss to the toothless Lions.
Take the Bears give up the 2 1/2.
Indianapolis Colts (14-1) at Buffalo Bills (5-10) (Line Colts plus 1 1/2)
The Colts did not expect the grief they received after laying down in the second half last weekend to the Jets, throwing away a perfect season.
The Indy spin machine has been busy reminding disgruntled fans that it is the Super Bowl that has always been the goal so the Colts are not about to risk injury to the players they benched last week.
But the Colts are staring at two losses and a bye before seeing serious action again – not exactly an ideal way to launch a Super Bowl run.
For that reason I expect QB Peyton Manning to get significant playing time before turning the game over to backup Curtis Painter. The Bills are down to their third quarterback, Brian Brohm taking over Ryan Fitzpatrick who took for Trent Edwards.
Weather could be an issue here but Colts jump out to a big early lead behind Manning and then hold on for the win.
Take the Colts and the 1 1/2.
New Orleans Saints (13-2) at Carolina Panthers (7-8) (Line Saints plus 1/2)
Saints perfect season has unravelled in a big a way and now the NFC’s top seed is looking at entering the post-season on a three game skid unless they can tame the Panthers, who have shown some superb late season form winning three of their last four.
How dangerous are the Panthers? Ask the Giants who saw their playoff hopes crushed 41-9 last weekend by the Cats.
Matt Moore has looked like Carolina’s quarterback of the future since taking over from Jake Delhomme and running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams may just be the best one-two punch in the NFL.
The Saints were the toast of the NFL through the first half of the season, trampling opponents, but their play began to fall off long before back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Tampa Bay hanging on for three point wins over Washington and Atlanta.
The Saints high octane offense directed by QB Drew Brees is still the NFL’s best but must find its Mojo again before hitting the post-season.
Saints playoff march begins here. Take the Saints and give up the half-point.
San Francisco 49ers (7-8) at St. Louis Rams (1-14) (Line 49ers minus 7 1/2)
The 49ers flattened St. Louis 35-0 in their earlier meeting and there is no reason to believe the Rams season won’t end the same way.
Under coach Mike Singletary, the 49ers play hard until the end and will be motivated to finish the season with a .500 record.
The Rams, meanwhile, will be pondering who they might like to pick with the first overall selection in the NFL draft.
Running back Steven Jackson ranks second in NFL rushing and is the Rams only offensive weapon but will find it tough going against a 49er rush defence that is among the league’s best.
Niners running back Frank Gore could actually have the bigger day going against a leaky Rams defence.
Take the Niners and give up the 7 1/2.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (7-8) (Line Steelers minus 1/2 point)
The Steelers have been playing like defending Super Bowl champs the last two weeks with wins over Green Bay and Baltimore to stay in the post-season chase while the Dolphins playoff chances are on life support after last week’s loss to Houston.
Even if Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger can guide the Steelers to a third straight win they will need help from other teams if their title defence is not to end in South Florida.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, need a Stephen Hawking-type hypothesis to reach the post-season.
With their backs against the wall, the Steelers have displayed a champion’s pride and produced the big effort when needed most. They do the same here.
Take the Steelers and give up the 1/2 point.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) at New York Jets (8-7) (Line Jets minus 9 1/2)
The Jets can land in the post-season with a win over the Bengals, a team that has clinched a playoff spot and likely to rest some key players.
If the New Yorkers reach the post-season they can thank NFL schedule makers and luck for handing them two opponents who have had nothing to play for the last two weeks.
Last Sunday, the Colts had the Jets on the ropes ready to land the knockout punch then took a dive benching QB Peyton Manning and other key players, opening the door for New York comeback.
The Jets are at home and have the NFL’s top ranked defence yielding just over 15 points a game but are not nearly as imposing on offense with rookie QB Mark Sanchez under increasing pressure.
Cincinnati games are almost always tight ones and I expect this one to be no different. Jets file flight plan for playoffs but it will be close.
Take the Bengals and the 9 1/2.